Week Three – An Embassy Event and an Inaugural Concert Ball

Once again, this week I find myself writing about - not one - but two New Things. This resolution appears to already have opened me up to embracing new experiences. I find myself saying YES to offers that I’d normally pass over for  an event a little closer to home, or for the opportunity to snuggle with my dog and a well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice. After this weekend, however, Mr. Darcy may be feeling a little neglected.

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On Friday night, I joined several good friends for a masquerade party at the Macedonian Embassy (See New Thing #16 – Attend a Cultural Event on Embassy Row). The event was held in celebration of Vasilia – a traditional Macedonian and Serbian holiday commemorating the beginning of the new year according to the Julian calendar. Villages in the Republic of Macedonia often celebrate the holiday with parades and festivals where the participants dress up in masked costumes  Admittedly, my friend Danielle and I looked all of this up online as we searched for the perfect mask. My knowledge of the term “Macedonia” was – at the time – limited to a “Western Civilizations” college course that followed Alexander the Great in his quest to conquer the ancient world.  Unfortunately, I’ve now learned that mentioning Alexander the Great around Macedonians is quite the faux pas. When the country formed from the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the name choice spurred considerable bitterness from the citizens of Greece. Apparently, Greece objects to the name “Macedonia” because millions of Greeks consider themselves ethnically Macedonian and because the name implies territorial claims to the country’s northern province. This dispute is ongoing and has kept the Republic of Macedonia from becoming a member of NATO and the EU. I suppose you learn something new every day – although, I wish I hadn’t learned this fact while physically standing in the Macedonian Embassy! Foot. In. Mouth.

This momentarily social lapse aside, the masquerade was an enjoyable night with friends. We sipped wine, swapped masks, and tasted ethnic cuisine - including an inordinate amount of baklava. Afterwards, many of the attendees (our group included) made their way to Russia House in Dupont. In the (very) dim light of Russia House, I conversed with a Serbian gentlemen who either (1) spoke very little English or (2) did not get my sense of humor. Since I’m obviously a delight to be around, I will assume the former.

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1BloodyMaryFinalWhen my friend Danielle and I awoke on Saturday, we had to shift focus to the next New Thing – our first Inaugural Ball. Earlier that week, a friend of mine invited me to attend Citizens Helping Heroes’ Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball. With my new resolve to embrace new experiences, I accepted before I even learned that Lynyrd Skynyrd was headlining the event. I consider this my reward for abandoning Mr. Darcy.

Before we could thrill to the sound of Sweet Home Alabama live, however, Danielle and I had to find ball gowns … in DC. On the Saturday before the Presidential Inauguration. Needless to say, it seemed a daunting task. After an obligatory Saturday morning brunch* (a DC tradition), the two of us scoured the local mall. At one point, Danielle threw up her hands and exclaimed “This sucks. Why is it SO HARD to find a decent ball gown?” We exchanged a look and laughed at the absurdity of our “plight.” It was definitely a #firstworldproblems moment.

* Bonus New Thing: At brunch, I ordered my first ever Bloody Mary. It was delicious.

Thankfully, Danielle and I found suitable gowns in time for the ball. The quadrennial event is held in recognition of those who serve in our military; unsurprisingly, we spent a portion of the cocktail hour casting appreciative glances at the young men in uniform. Danielle – a former Marine reservist in search of veterans-based volunteer opportunities – was happy to be introduced to several people involved with Civilians Helping Heroes and the Wounded Warrior Project. In sum, we were two smiling girls in ball gowns as we made our way to the concert hall.*

Bonus New Thing: In an effort to be adventurous, after the show I ordered a sweet potato martini. It was not delicious.

As we swayed to the music, I learned that each of my friends have a different favorite Skynyrd song. One friend loved Free Bird. Danielle almost jumped out of her high-heels when Sweet Home Alabama started to play. For me, however, my favorite has always been Simple Man. The lyrics have resonated with me since I was a child:

SkynFinalForget your lust, for the rich man’s gold
All that you need, is in your soul,
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

Boy, don’t you worry… you’ll find yourself.
Follow your heart, lord, and nothing else.
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

I realize this sentiment might sound a little silly after a lengthy post about masquerades and ball gowns. It is easy to become wrapped up in the superficial, ephemeral aspects of life. However, I always appreciate a reminder to focus on what matters – my friends and family, my faith, and my health. To be honest, it was a recent conversation with my wonderful big sister that gave my world view a much-needed realignment. On Saturday night, Lynyrd Skynyrd simply set it to music.

After the concert, we were able to speak briefly with Johnny Van Zant. Because he looked about a foot shorter off-stage and was wearing a promotional Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt – I initially doubted his identity. I thought perhaps that the man we were talking to was simply an aging hippy and fellow Skynyrd fan. According to Danielle, my skepticism showed plain on my face. It seems that Week Three featured as many social mishaps as it did New Things. Hopefully, neither Van Zant nor the Republic of Macedonia hold grudges.

More Photos from the Red, White, and Blue Inaugural Ball:

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